To hear a recorded announcement of upcoming events, call (617) 623-1806.
Print out the latest concert postcard, and please help us spread the word by passing them out to your friends!
Tickets for concerts in Watertown (not house concerts or other events) can be purchased online at BrownPaperTickets.com. Use the code season54 to get member and student prices.
And a glimpse ahead to the next concert season:
Robin Roberts was born in Utah where her great-grandparents came to settle from Ireland and the Eastern States in the 1850s. She has been singing folksongs all her life and collecting whenever possible in Ireland, Scotland and England. She first sang professionally in Paris at the Club L'Abbaye, spent a winter in London collaborating on a series of folk-music programs on the B.B.C. with Alan Lomax, including an Irish epic of drama and song with the Abbey Players in Dublin. After this, she accompanied Mr. Lomax and Sesmus Ennis on a recording journey through Ireland. Since then she has recorded several albums and songs for various companies and performed in concerts and nightclubs in Chicago, New York and Massachusetts. She helped edit the Columbia World Library of Folk music under Mr. Lomax, and produced five records in England for Tradition Records. In her other career, where she is known as Robin Howard, she has studied acting with Stella Adler, Harold Clurman and the Actor's Studio, and worked professionally as a lead in the "Rainmaker" in London and in various stock, off-Broadway, Broadway, film and TV productions here.
Purchase tickets online at BrownPaperTickets.com. Use the code season54 to get member prices. Tickets can also be purchased at the door.
Sharp's Appalachian Harvest is a special multimedia show researched and performed by Brian Peters, from England, and Connecticut's own Jeff Davis, both old friends of FSSGB. Their presentation is devoted to the astounding collection of songs and music made by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles in the Southern Appalachians over three summers in 1916, 1917 and 1918. The English folklorists had ventured into the heart of the mountains to seek out old British ballads still being sung in remote mountain settlements, and their haul of over sixteen hundred pieces is one of the greatest folk song collections ever made.
In their presentation, Jeff and Brian, two leading performers and researchers of traditional song and music, sing and play some of the highlights of Sharp's harvest, accompanied by readings from his diaries describing vividly the hardships and triumphs of song collecting, and a display of his terrific photographs of the singers and of mountain life. The music ranges from old ballads to American breakdowns, fiddle tunes, children's songs and gospel, performed by Jeff and Brian on banjo, fiddle, guitar, and a variety of other instruments.
This concert will be the first performance in the USA of Sharp's Appalachian Harvest.
Anita Best was born on the island of Merasheen in Placentia Bay on Newfoundland's south coast the year before Newfoundland joined Canada. When she was a child, television had not yet taken over as the primary source of entertainment, and for many homes on the island, electricity was provided by gas-powered generators. Singing, dancing and storytelling were the main forms of recreation and when the nights grew longer and colder and the fishing season was over, people would gather in each others homes and keep heart in one another with tunes, songs and stories.
Anita performs the traditional songs and stories from her childhood, as well as ones she learned later from people in Bonavista Bay, Cape St. Georges, and the communities in and around Gros Morne National Park. She also performs songs from Newfoundland's beloved contemporary songwriters, Pamela Morgan and Ron Hynes. With her rich voice and warm personality, she builds a marvelous bridge between old-time and contemporary Newfoundland song-making and storytelling traditions.
Anita has received several honors for her work in collecting and disseminating Newfoundland folksongs, including the Marius Barbeau award from the Folklore Studies Association of Canada and an Honorary Degree from Memorial University. She was named to the Order of Canada in 2011 and received the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 2013 for service to the community.
Purchase tickets online at BrownPaperTickets.com. Use the code season54 to get member prices. Tickets can also be purchased at the door.
Finest Kind is a remarkable folk trio from Ottawa, Canada whose exquisite harmony singing and brilliant vocal arrangements are bringing a fresh sense of excitement and discovery to the performance of old songs. The trio's glorious sound, served up with easy-going humour, has won a devoted following across North America.
Finest Kind's vocal arrangements are a creative tour de force. Tradition-based yet curiously modern, the trio's harmonies are an enchanting feast of opulent chords and ever changing textures. The trio's amazing vocal blend has been called "molecular bonding" by one reviewer: "Any closer," he says, "and they wouldn't be allowed to do it in public." Audiences invariably mention "goosebumps."
Finest Kind was formed in Ottawa, Canada, in 1991 by Ian Robb, Ann Downey, and Shelley Posen. Ian, originally from London, England, is renowned as one of North America's most gifted performers of British folksong, a concertina player extraordinaire, charter member of Toronto's Friends of Fiddler's Green, and composer of folk standards such as "The Old Rose and Crown." Ann, who hails from the southwestern U.S., plays guitar, banjo, and bass, and has performed in bands playing old-time and cowboy music, bluegrass, klezmer, jazz, and swing in North America and Europe. Shelley, a professional folklorist from Toronto, is a versatile singer and multi instrumentalist who has spent a lifetime researching, teaching, writing about, performing, and sometimes composing songs. The trio is often joined on stage by fiddler and mandolinist James Stephens, a master of styles ranging from Irish to Cape Breton, bluegrass to swing.
Each fall, FSSGB sponsors a weekend in a tranquil setting within easy driving distance of Boston. The weekend is filled with music -- song swaps, workshops and mini-concerts led by professional staff and campers on Saturday and Sunday. The Fall Getaway gives campers a chance to meet each other, trade songs and tunes, and enjoy a relaxing weekend away from the city.
This year's getaway features The Short Sisters on staff! For more information about them and the getaway weekend, visit the Fall Getaway Weekend page.
Martyn Wyndham-Read has been involved with folk music for over forty years. In his late teens he left his mother's farm in Sussex and headed off, with his guitar, to Australia where he worked on a sheep station Emu Springs in South Australia. It was while he was there that he heard, first hand, the old songs sung by some of the station hands at Emu Springs and he became captivated by these songs and the need to know more of them and where they came from grew. He headed off to Melbourne and became part of the folk song revival there and throughout Australia during the early 1960's.
Back to England in 1967 where he met up with the renowned singer and song collector Bert Lloyd, who himself had spent time in Australia. Martyn was asked by Bert Lloyd to be part of the album 'Leviathan' on the Topic label and soon after he started recording for Bill Leader and touring extensively worldwide.
In the early 1970's Martyn started the 'Maypoles to Mistletoe' concerts which portray the seasons of the year through song, music, dance and verse and illustration. Martyn is also the instigator of the well known Song Links Project,
Martyn is currently working with Shirley Collins on a production called 'Down the Lawson Track' featuring stories, poems/songs of the great Australian Poet of the People, Henry Lawson with Pip Barnes, Iris Bishop, Gary Holder and Jackie Oates.
His CD Jackeroo portrays his life so far through songs both old and new.
Purchase tickets online at BrownPaperTickets.com. Use the code season54 to get member prices. Tickets can also be purchased at the door.
Sparky and Rhonda Rucker perform throughout the U.S. as well as overseas, singing songs and telling stories from the American folk tradition. They are internationally recognized as leading musicians, authors, and storytellers. They accompany themselves with fingerstyle picking and bottleneck blues guitar, blues harmonica, old-time banjo, piano, spoons, and bones.
Sparky and Rhonda are sure to deliver an uplifting presentation of toe-tapping music spiced with humor, history, and tall tales. They take their audience on an educational and emotional journey that ranges from poignant stories of slavery and war to an amusing rendition of a Brer Rabbit tale or their witty commentaries on current events. Their music includes a variety of old-time blues, Appalachian music, slave songs, Civil War music, spirituals, work songs, ballads, civil rights music, and their own original compositions.
You will hear soulful blues licks, heart-rending gospel, knee-slapping good rhythms, and bottleneck guitar slide. Over forty years of performing, Sparky and Rhonda have performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as well as NPR's On Point, Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, and Morning Edition. Their recording, Treasures & Tears, was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award, and their music is also included on the Grammy-nominated anthology, Singing Through the Hard Times.
Since seating is limited, we strongly suggest that you purchase tickets in advance. Purchase tickets online at BrownPaperTickets.com. Use the code season54 to get member prices. Tickets can also be purchased via mail order; send SASE and check (payable to FSSGB Inc.) with a note about how many member and non-member tickets to FSSGB Tickets c/o Lori Fassman, 17 Faulkner Hill Rd, Acton MA 01720. All tickets sold at the door are $30 and we don't expect there to be many left by that time.
Nowell Sing We Clear with its unusual songs, carols, stories, and customs has toured every year since 1975. Drawn mostly from English-language folk traditions, the songs tell both a version of the events and characters involved in the Christmas story and detail the customs which make up the twelve magical days following the return of the light at the winter solstice. Many of these ancient customs are the basis of the today's holiday traditions, such as visiting and feasting, gift-giving, carol singing from door-to-door and the adorning of houses and churches with garlands of evergreen.
Nowell Sing We Clear celebrates Christmas as it was known for centuries in Britain and North America and as it continues in many places to the present. The songs come from an age when the midwinter season was a time for joyous celebration and vigorous expression of older, perhaps pagan, religious ideas. There is not always a clear line between these and the rejoicing at the birth of Jesus bringing a fresh light into the world at this dark midwinter time. A special and unusual treat is the enactment of a Mummers Play from Kentucky. Performed in the traditional manner, the play is typical of folk dramas which survive to this day throughout Britain and North America symbolizing and portraying the death of the land at midwinter and its subsequent rebirth in the spring.
While much of the singing is done in unaccompanied style, the pageant is also stamped with the energetic dance band sound of fiddle, button accordion, electric piano, drums, and concertina. The audience will be supplied with songsheets and encouraged to sing along, though after three decades of touring in New England, a whole generation of young people have grown up with these songs and carols and sing along with as much as they can. Some "new",that is "different", songs and carols are introduced every year. Performers are John Roberts and Tony Barrand, widely known for their lively presentations of English folk songs, and Fred Breunig and Andy Davis, well known in New England as dance callers and musicians.
Nowell Sing We Clear has become a regular part of some communities on the Eastern seaboard.This year the ensemble will be playing as far south as West Chester, PA, and as far north as Brattleboro, VT. The group has several recordings of songs from the show which have been popular items in many households at this time of year. Their CDs are drawn from songs learned for their concerts: The newest is Nowell, Nowell, Nowell. Others are Just Say Nowell, Hail Smiling Morn (which has a cover designed by famous Vermont artist, Mary Azarian), Nowell SingWe Four, and Nowell, Nowell, Nowell. The first three LP recordings are all well represented on a compact disk, The Best of Nowell: 1976 - 1985 All recordings are available from Golden Hind Records.
Their new CD "Bidding You Joy" (http://www.goldenhindmusic.com/) will be available at the concert.
Sunday, December 1, 2013, 2-5 pm
in the back room at Doyle's Cafe
3484 Washington St.
Jamaica Plain, MA
Sponsored by the Folk Song Society of Greater Boston
and The West Gallery Quire.
Come and sing Carols from the Sheffield, West Gallery, and Sacred Harp traditions (as well as some standard favorites), led by Bruce Randall of The West Gallery Quire.
With special guests, The Paper Bag Mummers, providing merriment and mayhem!
Suitable for all voices and melodic instruments. Music will be available.
Free! (but we will pass the hat for the waitress)
Contact Bruce Randall (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
The annual FSSGB members' concert is always a popular event. Our members perform songs which range from traditional ballads to original compositions, and from instrumental to a cappella pieces. Some of the instruments that have been played at this concert in the past include violin, cello, banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass, keyboard and concertina. Some FSSGB members who have performed at this event have gone on to have successful performing careers, such as Elijah Wald, Mark Ryer, Fool's Errand and Merle Roesler.
Our hosts this year will be Two for the Show, otherwise known as Ellen Schmidt and Jake Kensinger. Ellen and Jake are warm, talented, energetic performers who play out regularly, often accompanied by fellow FSSGB members.
Members are invited to sign up to perform - one song or a spoken word piece. You may perform alone or with others. Some performers have been participating for years; others will do so for the first time. Children are most welcome. The program will feature professional musicians as well as living room folk enthusiasts. All are welcome. The Midweek Singers are an important part of the program as are the many members who show up especially for this event. The audience is always supportive and lively.
FSSGB members (including new members!) are welcome to sign up to perform one song or spoken word piece. Contact Ellen Schmidt at eschmidt01742 AT gmail DOT com to sign up by January 15th.
Proceeds from this show help keep the Society strong - we thank the performers and the audience for making this event possible.
Click here to hear some recordings done by our talented members!
Dónal Maguire has been singing and playing in public on and off for forty years (currently "on"!) In 2001 Dónal decided to realise a lifetime ambition and devote himself to his music on a full-time basis. The Clergy's Lamentation album has been re-released on CD with additional tracks, and is receiving very positive reviews.
Dónal's current major project centres round the legendary Michael Davitt, arguably one of the most celebrated statesmen in 19th Century Irish history. Dónal is to tour his musically illustrated lecture "Triumph over Adversity" to celebrate the centenary of Davitt's death in 1906. Davitt, the supreme political organiser, social reformer and egalitarian, migrated to Haslingden (where, coincidentally, Dónal has lived since 1978) as a child from Mayo in the west of Ireland.
While Dónal has been primarily associated with unaccompanied singing, he has significant other 'strings to his bow'. Dónal is a fine interpreter of contemporary material, as well as an excellent singer of traditional material, and can accompany himself on a range of stringed instruments. He is universally recognised as one of the finest players of Irish dance music on mandolin and tenor banjo.
This is our second annual showcase of young performers who sing and play traditional (or trad-like) folk songs and tunes.
Performers are Nicole Singer, Maura Scanlin, and Torrin Ryan.
Nicole Singer is a musician, teacher, artist, and sailor living in Northampton, Massachusetts. Nicole sings sea songs and chanteys, gospel, work songs, ballads, blues, and lots of other things. Nicole recently co-organized Youth Traditional Song Weekend, and co-authored the Folk Sing Starter Kit for the Country Dance and Song Society. She has performed at the Bates College Folk Festival, Swarthmore College, NEFFA, Mystic Seaport's Sea Music Festival, and at local participatory sings from Baltimore to Boston and many places in between. She can sometimes be found singing aboard tall ships too. When she's not singing, Nicole is a middle school art teacher. "Singer" is her real last name.
Maura Shawn Scanlin grew up in Boone, North Carolina, and began playing violin at the age of three. She began studying classical music with the Suzuki Method, and several years later started exploring several styles of traditional fiddle music. Maura Shawn graduated high school in 2013 from the North Carolina School of the Arts, where she studied violin with Sarah Johnson. Maura Shawn moved to Boston to attend the New England Conservatory and study with Lucy Chapman. She is currently a freshman, pursuing an undergraduate degree in classical violin performance at NEC. Maura Shawn has participated in various classical and fiddle music competitions, earning top prizes at many. Maura Shawn's fiddle interests have engaged her in many traditional Scottish fiddle music competitions, where recently she has had much success, winning the US National Scottish Fiddle Championship in 2010 and 2012, and the Glenfiddich Fiddle Championship in Perthshire, Scotland in October 2013. In addition to Scottish fiddle music, Maura Shawn enjoys playing many other styles of fiddle, including Cape Breton, Irish, Cape Breton, and Old Time.
After seeing Lunasa piper Cillian Vallely in action at the age of twelve, Torrin Ryan picked up a set of uilleann pipes and has been piping ever since. He has competed in several Mid-Atlantic Fleadhs where he's won first place on both whistle and pipes. In Ireland, he has competed at the All-Ireland Fleadh held in Tullamore and Derry and is the 2013 All-Ireland Uilleann Pipes Slow Airs champion. At home, Torrin has attended and now teaches at the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann Boston Music School, is a regular at the Northeast Uilleann Pipers Tionol, and is a member of the Boston Piper's Club. He has been influenced by many styles of piping as well as many pipers and likes to incorporate both tight and open piping into his playing. He favors both the 'tasteful' piping of Liam O'Flynn and Seamus Ennis as well as the 'traveler style' or 'open' piping of Paddy Keenan and the Doran brothers. Currently a member of several bands, some of his past performances include the ICONS Festival, the Blackstone River Theatre Celtic Festival, the Cotuit Center for the Performing Arts, and at the Blackstone River Theatre with longtime Providence-based Celtic group Pendragon.
Sold out and there's a long waiting list!!!
It's the typical story: boy meets girl in high school, they play in folk bands, they marry and move to Canada for five years, move back, divorce and form a fresh guitar/accordion duo producing songs that are being sung by amateurs and professionals all over the world. OK, perhaps it's not typical. But then there is very little that is conventional about Lou and Peter Berryman.
Their lives together have taken them from the high school prom to the Kennedy Center on a path filled with friendship, hardship and creative drive. Their songwriting style is a welcomed throwback to the days of Tin Pan Alley, where one wrote the words, the other the music, and all with complete devotion to the craft. But where the songsmiths of the'30s and '40s spent most of their time saying 'I love you' in 32 bars over and over again, Lou and Peter have redefined subject and device when it comes to the craft of composing songs. Their unusual take on the world has lead to creations that are unlike any others. They are admired by, not only thousands of music fans, but by some of our greatest living songwriters. It all started in high school in Appleton, Wisconsin. Lou and Peter Berryman have spread their music through 12 recordings and hundreds of performances on both coasts, the Midwest, Texas and Canada. They win new fans everywhere they go. And the old fans? They keep coming to hear the new songs and to watch the astonished reaction of the folks hearing this delightful duo for the first time.
With Peter on guitar, and Lou on the five-string banjo, they played in a variety of folk bands in high school. Influenced by the recorded rejects from the radio station where Peter's mom worked, the teenaged musicians gobbled up the likes of Woody Guthrie, The Weavers and Jimmy Driftwood. This early exposure to folk and blues continues to inspire them to this day. Influenced by those records and by folk, blues and jug band music, Peter was beginning to see himself as an artist and a writer. "I remember just being totally taken with the idea that you could just write a song," Peter recalled in a recent interview. "It's like you have this blank piece of paper in front of you and essentially it's the same piece of paper that Jimmy Driftwood has in front of him. The potential is there for it to be as much of an actual song as a Jimmy Driftwood song or a Beatles song or whatever." Peter's excitement for and astonishment with the process has changed very little in 35 years.
Purchase tickets online at BrownPaperTickets.com. Tickets can also be purchased at the door.
Through his music, Skip Gorman brings back to life the workaday world of the cowboys of the American West. His music is not the music of the Hollywood cowboy, but rather the simple, yet beautifully poignant music that was performed around campfires by cowboys and westward settlers in the 19th century. Gorman brings to the music a scholar's knowledge of the cowboy's Celtic, Spanish and Afro-American roots as well as the personal experience gained by working as a cowboy on a ranch in Wyoming, along with an exquisite touch as a singer, guitarist, fiddler and mandolinist.
Whether solo or with his old time cowboy band, The Waddie Pals, Skip takes the music from one of the most romanticized periods of American history-the days of the cattle drives and westward expansion-strips away the Hollywood glitz and Nashville affectations, and shows us the beauty of the music as it was sung and played along emigrant trails and in cowcamps over a hundred years ago in the American West.
Skip is also an acclaimed Bill Monroe-style mandolinist and a fine old time Celtic FIddler.
Gorman has performed on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, at bluegrass festivals, cowboy gatherings and at folk venues and Celtic music festivals throughout the US and Europe. He also frequently presents programs and concerts at schools and museums, educating and entertaining in authentic cowboy garb while playing period instruments. Documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns, has featured Skip's music in both Lewis and Clark, Baseball, Dust Bowl Days and National Parks. Skip Gorman has released sixteen recordings on the Old West, Rounder and Folk Legacy labels. He is featured on many others.
Proceeds from this concert will benefit the First Parish of Watertown's Helen Robinson Wright fund, which provides assistance for individuals in need.
FSSGB will dedicate our annual song swap at the New England Folk Festival to the late, great Pete Seeger. We'll have some song sheets to share. See the New England Folk Festival website for more information.
Purchase tickets for the concert online at BrownPaperTickets.com. Use the code season54 to get member prices. Tickets can also be purchased at the door.
We expect both events to sell out - get your tickets early!
Few people embody such a depth of family and regional tradition, or represent it to the rest of the world with so much authority and affection, as Sheila Kay Adams. Adams is the seventh-generation bearer of her family's two-hundred-year-old ballad-singing tradition, and is the mother and teacher of the eighth generation. Her own teachers were her great-aunt Dellie Norton, cousin Cass Wallin, and other kinfolks in the Wallin, Chandler, Norton, Ramsey, and Ray families of Sodom, North Carolina, who have so long been admired by ballad singers and collectors. In 1998, folklorist Dan Patterson wrote in the North Carolina Folklore Journal that "These families have made Sodom famous, out of all proportion to its size." The tiny community is a giant in fostering the folk traditions of North Carolina.
After teaching in the North Carolina public schools for seventeen years, Adams now devotes her attention full-time to music and storytelling. One of the best-known living ballad singers in North Carolina, as well as a fine oldtime banjo player, she has recorded prolifically and performed at many dozens of venues and festivals in the United States and Great Britain. She performs and has recorded solo, as well as with her late husband Jim Taylor and other musical partners. Adams' talent has even caught the attention of Hollywood. She made a musical appearance in the 1992 film Last of the Mohicans, and was a technical advisor and singing coach for the movie Songcatcher.
As a storyteller, Adams also presents her family's heritage to a world audience. Her tales of life in Madison County are full of history and humor. A reviewer in the Washington Post wrote that, "Her stories may be localized or carry you back to the thirteenth century, but their lessons, poignancy, and humor have no boundary, real or artificial." Most recently she is the acclaimed author of two books, Come Go Home With Me, a collection of short stories drawn from life in Madison County, and My Old True Love, a novel of love and family in Civil War-era Madison County. Life Magazine called her book of short stories "pure mountain magic." And, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says My Old True Love is "as passionate and eventful as an Irish ballad."
Sheila Kay Adams won the 1997 North Carolina Society of Historians' Clark Cox Historical Fiction Award, and received the North Carolina Folklore Society's Brown-Hudson Award for outstanding contributions to the folklore of her home state.
In 2013, Adams received the National Heritage Fellowship, the nation's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.
Max Godfrey is a young worksonger, literature scholar, storyteller and farmer from Georgia. He performs country-blues, old-time songs, fiddle and traditional work songs with his instantly recognizable, all-powerful worksonging voice and technique. As a student of African American Studies and English at University of Georgia, Max studies literature in hopes of better understanding race in America. One of his biggest interests is the intersection between storytelling and music.
In Pine Mountain, Georgia, Max would often walk out into a neighboring cornfield and sing before work began. And most nights he made a point of singing a couple songs outside his trailer to put himself to sleep. He found that even highly rhythmic songs, such as Berta Berta, take on a rich, and even captivatingly lonesome character when they are sung with a slower, more spontaneous rhythm. He would leave enough time between lines to hear his voice echoing off the forest at the edge of the field. By slowing the songs down, he found himself spending ten to twenty minutes running through a work song by himself, settling into a meditative state as he went along. He says that by singing in solitude, free to make mistakes and improvise, we can take traditional songs we've learned from recordings and make them our own.
"Most of the songs I sing I have learned while I've been sitting indoors, with my ears pressed up against a computer speaker. The same, I believe, is true for many of today's traditional singers. Most of us haven't grown up with these songs. We have no faces, no scenes, no smells or memories to connect them to. But it is the singer's own experiences with a particular song, rather than the melody and lyrics alone, which really bring a song to life and make others want to join in."
Ankie van der Meer was born in 1959. Music was in her soul, if not practiced in her family, and at 14 she took up the guitar in order to accompany herself in song. In her late teens she was invited to join a Frisian folk group led by Nanne Kalma. That was the beginning of a life long career in music as well as a life long partnership with Nanne.
Nanne Kalma, born in 1949, grew up in Leeuwarden, the capital of the province of Friesland. After playing rock and roll for several years in the 1960s, his musical interests veered more toward a gentler, acoustic sound and the early 1970s found him performing folk music. He began setting lyrics of Frisian poets to music, expanding the repertoire of Dutch folk song. Ankie joined the group he had formed - Irolt - in the mid '70s and, as Irolt parted ways 11 years later, they formed Kat yn 't Seil with Marita Kruijswijk and Marian Nesse.
Together they have produced more than 30 albums (LP's and CD's) and counting. They sing in Esperanto, in Frisian, in Dutch and in English and perform using guitar, mandolin and concertina amongst other instruments. They love touring and have traveled widely.